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And the Walls Came Tumbling Down… Catina Robinson-Hale

  • Broadcast in Visual Arts
Phantom Gallery Chicago Network

Phantom Gallery Chicago Network


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A portion of the photos in my installation was taken during the years of 1996-97. In 1996, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) took control of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). At that time HUD introduced a radical change of policy, advocating the demolition of “failed high-rise buildings”. 

Chicago demolished several high-rise buildings in 1996 and 1997. As thousands of families became displaced the footprint of the West and South Side(s) of the city were changed forever. My installation attempts to capture the sense of abandonment and destruction. At the same time highlighting the juxtaposition of buildings tumbling down against the backdrop of the ever-pristine Saint Ignatius Church Bell Tower. I see this as a simple display of how the livelihoods of African American families were literally being torn apart while the almighty Catholic Church stands strong. Upholding the realities of Chicago and “The Tale of Two Cities”.

The larger prints of the installation showcase images of locks and chains. For years I’ve been drawn to the different compositions captured with randomly found locks and chains. Many metaphors can be used to break down the meaning behind the lock and chain. I wanted to connect the idea of how the city kept many African American families on “lockdown” in these vertical towers in Black areas of the city for many decades. Those “locks” that were eventually unlocked when (HUD) decided to demolish these “failed high-rise buildings”. In the end, it’s no secret that the government had always owed the land. They kept it under lock and key and when the time came, gave the authority to unlock the land for developers. I can imagine the history of these once well-known high-rise public housing buildings filled with families fading with each story told. Almost like a ghost town of communities that Black Families once occupied.